The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) is a national association of 217 state university systems, land-grant universities, and related organizations across all 50 states. This week, USAID Administrator Raj Shah and several Agency representatives are attending APLU’s Annual Meeting, the premier annual summit for senior leaders of public research universities, land-grant institutions, and state universities.
USAID has enjoyed a long and productive history of partnerships with U.S. universities — partnerships that are critical to our success in many areas and dating back to our very founding 50 years ago. These institutions’ education, research, and engagement missions directly align with USAID’s charge to help people overseas struggling to make a better life. USAID partnerships with U.S. universities have focused on research and graduate training for promising young developing country scientists and on strengthening colleges and universities abroad to create the next generation of agricultural leaders. Together, we have made great progress. But there is still so much more to be done.
This week, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah is attending the Annual Meeting of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) in San Francisco. USAID shares a long history of close partnership with U.S. universities, including collaboration on agricultural capacity development activities in the developing world. See below how some of this work is reaching women researchers in Africa.
Last month, I was honored to have the opportunity to attend the 2011 World Food Prize in Des Moines, Iowa as a fellow in the Borlaug 21st Century Leadership Program. The event saw participation from hundreds of leaders and experts in policy, industry, and research from all over the world, convened there to discuss global food security and agriculture. Throughout the week, I encountered countless high-powered individuals who have been working tirelessly to achieve global food security by facilitating increased production among small-scale farmers. They have made a compelling case for improving the effectiveness of U.S. investments in global food security and for addressing the troubling gap between population growth and food production.
An example of these investments to build long-term food security, my own research through the Borlaug Program has focused on an important aspect of the food supply: pre- and post-harvest losses. From the time that seeds are planted to the time that farmers harvest and store their crops, good farming practices are essential to agricultural productivity. Food security is compromised when farmers plant damaged seeds, leading to unviable crops; when poor farming practices result in a poor crop yield; or when improper storage and loss of crops prevent farmers from reaping the rewards of months of hard work. Therefore, one clear way to help reduce global hunger is to reduce pre- and post-harvest losses. My goal is to be able to find a lasting solution to the problem of postharvest grain storage faced by the farmers in my home country of Nigeria.
Angela Stephens is a Development Outreach and Communications Officer in the Africa Bureau.
In South Sudan, farmers, researchers, and the private sector are coming together with the help of USAID to showcase the new nation’s agricultural potential.
On November 9 to 12, USAID supported the first agricultural trade fair in Juba, South Sudan. National and international entrepreneurs came to learn about opportunities in agriculture, fisheries, livestock, and forestry. Farmers from 10 different states showcased their products, including items such as cassava, bamboo, flowers, beeswax, gum arabic, fruit, vegetables, and dried fish. Among displays of tractors and farm equipment, students learned about the agricultural industry and experts demonstrated planting and irrigation techniques at interactive exhibits.
“Agriculture affects every citizen of South Sudan, a nation in which more than 80 percent of the population lives in rural areas and depends on agriculture, livestock, fisheries, and forestry for their livelihood,” said USAID Deputy Mission Director Peter Natiello at the opening of the fair.
Republic of South Sudan Vice President Dr. Riek Machar Teny welcomed farmers and exhibitors who came from across South Sudan and the region to attend the fair. As an example of South Sudan’s enormous potential, Vice President Machar described how rich Western Equatoria state is in its agricultural production, including mangoes and pineapple, but farmers face challenges in bringing their goods to market. “This is where we need investors to come in who can buy products and preserve them, either process it locally, can it, or dry it, and then send it to the areas that do not produce these products,” he said.
In my 24 years with USAID, I have served around the world but somehow had never made it to the former Soviet Union – until last month. So it was with great excitement that I anticipated my first visit to Central Asia, eager to learn more about the region and our programs there.
The most memorable part of the trip was visiting USAID projects in Turkmenistan during my first three days in the region. I visited the historical city of Mary (Mar-ree), a caravan city in southeastern Turkmenistan on the original Silk Road about an hour’s flight from the capital, Ashgabat. In the Mary region, USAID is funding a well-received Agricultural Technology Project that works to increase the agricultural productivity of small greenhouse farmers, by providing technical assistance and training in new greenhouse technology. I toured various greenhouses in the region, including some that USAID has helped rehabilitate. From what I was told, the yield of various crops (mainly tomatoes, cucumbers, lemons, etc.) has doubled in the rehabilitated greenhouses. Techniques used include raised roofs, improved heating systems, better irrigation techniques, and more appropriate fertilizer usage.
The sun was beaming down on us. Some were clearly starting to feel tired, hungry, and thirsty.
“Are we there yet?” joked a young man a few feet ahead of me.
“Apple cider?” asked a man standing behind a table set up along the road just for us. “We have cookies, too. Take what you’d like!”
We were less than two miles into a six-mile CROP Hunger Walk in Arlington, VA. Sponsored by Church World Service (CWS), about 2,000 CROP Hunger Walks are organized each year by local groups in communities across the United States to raise awareness about hunger at home and around the world. I was honored to have been invited to help kick off the walk and participate with about 100 others who were taking time out of their Saturday morning to demonstrate a commitment to ending the plight of those suffering from hunger.
The U.S. is chairing the UN FAO Committee for Food Security’s intergovernmental negotiations on Voluntary Guidelines for the Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests (VG). To date, these negotiations have included over 70 countries, the private sector, multilateral institutions and some 50 civil society organizations (CSO). By the end of October 2011 approximately 70% of the VGs have been negotiated and agreed to. The US is hopeful that this process will be completed in early 2012.
The nature of these negotiations is unique in the UN system as civil society participates on an equal basis throughout the dialog process before consensus is reached among the members. Civil society organizations have been very collaborative and brought much-needed field-level information to the discussion of the VGs. The USG was frequently in agreement with the CSOs, and publically aligned with them on the need to complete the VG before the Committee for Food Security or any other body takes on the highly charged issue of “land grabbing” under the rubric of Responsible Agricultural Investments.
The face of America – and of American agriculture – is changing. The number of farms in the United States has grown 4 percent and the operators of those farms have become more diverse in the past five years, according to results of USDA’s most recent Census of Agriculture. The 2007 Census counted nearly 30 percent more women as principal farm operators. The count of Hispanic operators grew by 10 percent, and the counts of American Indian, Asian and Black farm operators increased as well. In addition, the U.S. Census Bureau reports that the number of minority-owned businesses grew more than 45 percent between 2002 and 2007.
To reflect the diversity of our agricultural sector and business community, USDA is stepping up its efforts to continually supplement its seven Agricultural Trade Advisory Committees (ATACs) with new members, especially those who represent minorities, women, or persons with disabilities. We believe that people with different backgrounds and views will make the work of these committees, and thus of USDA, more effective.
Applicants should represent a U.S. entity with an interest in agricultural trade and have expertise and knowledge of agricultural trade as it relates to policy and commodity-specific issues. For example, Robert Anderson of Sustainable Strategies LLC has served at different points in time on both the Fruits and Vegetables ATAC and the Processed Foods ATAC. Of his experience, Anderson said, “I had the opportunity to meet directly with the highest levels of international trade leadership in the United States and globally. Most importantly, the U.S. government actually seeks our input, listens, and responds to the needs and expectations of the U.S. agricultural industry.”
At a time when our economy is trying to rebound from a serious recession, having a voice on one of these committees can make a significant impact on the government decisions that affect our economic future. That’s because agricultural trade plays an extremely important role in the health of our nation’s economy. U.S. agricultural exports have consistently contributed to the positive U.S. trade balance, creating jobs and boosting economic growth. In fiscal 2011, U.S. agricultural exports were forecast to reach a record $137 billion, which supported more than one million jobs in America this year.
Rural farmers in Paraguay are having great success selling their passion fruit through farming associations to a leading corporate juice brand. This is thanks to USAID’s support through Paraguay Productivo, a program that connects small farmers with private sector buyers.
Lucia Santos and her grandson who have benefited from the cooperative with Frutika. Photo Credit: Laura Rodriguez/USAID
Last week, I had the chance to visit some farmers in Paraguay’s Itapúa province and learn about their experiences with Paraguay Productivo and especially the leading local buyer, Frutika. I was thrilled to see the benefits of the program for myself and hear the testimony of small-scale farmer, Lucia Santos, whose life has been transformed through her production work. In the following video she says that she now has enough money to buy necessary items for her family.
USAID/Paraguay Productivo has GDA (Global Development Alliances) agreements with 20 organizations, mainly small farmer cooperatives & private firms and has generated $9.8 million U.S. dollars in local sales and exports. Paraguay Productivo is working with Cooperatives and associations that have over 100,000 members some of them in production and many others in savings and credits cooperatives.
The program also provides technical support to farmers, including advising them on how to best produce crops. And it has helped them find buyers like Frutika, one of Paraguay’s most successful food processing and distribution companies, which buys passion fruit and other products from small farmers.
This is a win-win arrangement. The company can count on a reliable source of passion fruit and rural producers now have a reliable buyer. Since the initial agreement in 2009, approximately 300 small farmers have joined the program and started producing passion fruit and another 250 farmers are preparing to cultivate more passion fruit.
Some municipalities are joining the effort because they are investing in nursery production for passion fruit. In rural Paraguay where the poverty rate is as high as 48 %, this assistance is really helping to transform people’s lives.
Beneficiary Norma Riveros, credits her passion fruit sales to her participation in Paraguay Productivo, which ensures her and her family a regular income. They can now afford to buy a machine that helps them clear the field and improve crop yield. I also had a chance to speak to 19 year old passion fruit farmer and business student, Rolando Fretes, one of the cooperatives’ young leaders. In this video he talks about his work and explains why Paraguay Productivo is important to his community:
At the end of the day, I visited the production plant at Frutika and saw first-hand the results of the farmers’ hard labor. Frutika is one of the best-selling companies in Paraguay, and the leading provider of juices such as orange juice, passion fruit, and peach. Here, Engineer Celso Cubilla discusses the importance the company’s partnership with Paraguay Productivo to its business goals.
In short, there is no denying that this public private partnership is beneficial to Paraguay’s economy and all the parties involved: USAID, the rural farmers and Frutika.
Agriculture is the largest single employer in Kenya and counts for one fourth of the country’s GDP, but the current agricultural production methods in Kenya are inefficient, causing economic stagnation and poverty. USAID and partners on the ground in Kenya have developed competitive programs for maize, dairy, passion fruit, and small hold farmers to help improve productivity. These initiatives – like USAID’s Feed the Future – have transformed lives, promoted sustainable agricultural development, and improved the nutritional options for many of Kenya’s people.
In the coming weeks, we will highlight 4 videos celebrating USAID’s partnership with Kenya. The first video in this series shows the variety of agriculture programs and activities that have occurred over the past 50 years and the impact that they have had on the people of Kenya.